News / Toronto

Documents show Queen St. route for Downtown Relief subway

The relief line will not run to Union Station as some had previously expected.

Passengers crowd the platform at Bloor-Yonge station during the morning commute.

Torstar News Service file

Passengers crowd the platform at Bloor-Yonge station during the morning commute.

After 30 years of politicking and planning, the long-awaited Downtown Relief subway line is beginning to take shape.

According to documents obtained by the Globe and Mail, staff are proposing to run the line south from Pape Station and then west along Queen Street to Nathan Phillips Square.

City staff are expected to propose a route for the Downtown Relief Line that would run south from Pape Station, then west along Queen Street to Nathan Phillips Square.

Andres Plana/Metro

City staff are expected to propose a route for the Downtown Relief Line that would run south from Pape Station, then west along Queen Street to Nathan Phillips Square.

“We’re farther along on the relief than we’ve ever been in the past,” Jennifer Keesmaat, the city’s chief planner, told Metro. “There have been lines drawn on a map, but there’s never been the amount of technical and due diligence that we’ve undertaken to date.”

Some expected the line to run to Union Station, connecting riders to GO service and the existing subway line, but Keesmaat said the plan isn’t feasible.

“The very simple reason is that we have a capacity issue at Union Station,” she said, citing already high passenger volumes at the transit hub during peak hours.

Staff considered six different routes for the first phase of the DRL, including Broadview, Pape and Donlands for the north-south portion and King, Queen and Wellington for the east-west leg.

The recommendation was based on number of criteria, including ridership, social equity and affordability, Keesmaat said.

In addition to relieving congestion on the Yonge Line, Keesmaat said the preferred route could also take pressure off the “overburdened” King streetcar line.

While happy to see progress of the relief line’s southern stretch, some transit advocates are frustrated that plans for its northern spur are still nebulous.

The newly-formed Toronto Relief Line Alliance has been pushing to extend the DRL north to Sheppard Avenue, while local transit expert Steve Munro believes the first phase of the line should run at least to Eglinton.

“The demand models clearly show the relief line does not come into its own if it stops at the Danforth,” Munro said.

Keesmaat said plans for the relief line’s western and northern extensions are still being studied.

The idea of a third downtown subway line was first proposed by the city in 1985. However, provincial authorities balked at the cost and the plan was scrapped.

The plan was revived in 2008 as part of Metrolinx’s Big Move, but despite agreement among transit experts that a relief line was needed, it continued to take a back seat to projects like the Scarborough Subway and Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack initiative.

According to the TTC and Metrolinx, the relief line will need to be complete by 2030, when overcrowding on the Yonge subway line will become unmanageable.

“To have it ready by then, we need to get the ball rolling now,” said Toronto Relief Line Alliance founder Louis Mark. 

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